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Posted in fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Stalled on Lake Victoria

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was like something out of National Geographic. I was on a vision trip to Uganda several years ago and it was one adventure after another.  I was working with a missionary who had a ministry to the people living on the islands of Lake Victoria.  This massive lake is the second largest in the world and is more like an inland sea than a lake.  There are places that you can lose sight of the shoreline and you feel very much like you are out on the ocean.

Our vessel was anything but an ocean liner.  It was a handcrafted open vessel that was about twenty-five feet long and powered by a fire breathing dragon of a motor with a whopping ten horsepower.  We would tear across the lake at a heart stopping ten miles an hour. Ok, there really wasn’t a fire breathing dragon effect, nor were we tearing across the lake, but it was a great adventure!  Usually.

One day, after a long day of preaching and teaching, it was time to head back to our home island.  We were a little late leaving and night was coming soon, so it was imperative that we begin heading back.  Our boat was parked in a small, secluded harbor and from there we all loaded up.  There were only about six of us in the boat and the small engine started and off we went.  As soon as we left the harbor we were greeted by some rough water.  The waves were large enough to be “white caps” and I gave the missionary a glance but he assured me that these were not big waves. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is wave size.  These were boat swallowing monsters.  And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

As the pilot guided the boat and tried to determine just how to navigate the large waves…the motor quit.  I mean, it just stopped.  Suddenly, at least in my eyes, things got a bit more interesting.  We could no longer navigate the waves, rather, we were at their mercy and no matter how hard the pilot pulled, the engine wouldn’t start.  About then I began a worship service of sorts, part music, part prayer and part personal eulogy. You know, “Friends we are gathered here to honor the life of…” Meanwhile the pilot is still pulling on the motor and I kept praying.

Finally, one of the guys in the boat named Joseph went to work on the motor.  Joseph is a young man that can do just about anything—from preaching to apparently fixing motors.  The shorter version of a long story is that He proceeded to take the carburetor apart and “blow it out.”  Now keep in mind we are still rocking like crazy…and I still am praying and preparing to die.  But I had planned my funeral just a little too soon.  Before long, Jospeh had the carburetor reassembled and back on the motor.  Three or four quick pulls later and we were back “on the road.”  The waves were still big (at least to me) but we were underway and eventually we arrived back at the other island.  Safe—if not too sound.

It really was one of those times that I wished I had paid more attention at swimming lessons because I wasn’t totally sure of the outcome.  But thankfully I did remember one thing. I remembered that whether I am rocking in a boat on the world’s second largest lake in East Africa or driving down the Interstate at 70 miles-per-hour surrounded by people looking at their cellphones or doing life in a tumultuous point in history, my Father, my Dearest Daddy, is in control.  Fate and circumstances are not calling the shots—He is. And if that isn’t enough, we have the promise that the Lord will personally go ahead of us. He will be with us; He will neither fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Now to be clear that doesn’t mean that everything is going to turn out exactly as I would like.  It doesn’t mean that I get to write the script and He has to follow it.  Quite the contrary, He is writing the script and He invites me to trust Him and to believe that ultimately the end of the story is for my good and His glory.  I’m learning that the story never ends here—it ends there.  For the person who decides to trust Him there is always a surprise ending and that is—the end is not the end.  We may change locations, but the story continues.  How about that?

So, I survived that day on the lake and now have returned many times…each time taking others with me including the one that I love most on this earth—my wife, Judy. I do so knowing, that while there are risks, ultimately the pilot of the boat doesn’t sit at the back but up in heaven and He’s got his eye on us and everything we do.  It’s true in East Africa and its true where you and I live.  We can say with certainty that if we belong to Him, we don’t have to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

What Time Is It…Really?

Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” John 17:17b

It was the 60’s and 70’s. The novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” starts with “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and that pretty well describes those two decades.  Out of those somewhat crazy times came some of the best music ever written—at least modern music.  I know that is true because people from all the other decades seem to come back to the 60’s and 70’s. Some, ok, maybe a lot of it, was kinda crazy but that is what made it so cool.  There was a song that was released by the group Chicago in 1969 called, “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is.”  It was a quirky song, in fact, that is how the guy who wrote it described it.

What is kinda funny is that it is a song that my wife Judy and I live daily.  If you read Grits, you might remember that I like clocks a lot. It all started a long time ago and is one hobby or obsession that has stuck with me through the years.  I am intrigued because of the design and engineering that went into each clock.  Some of my clocks are babies, only sixty or seventy years old.  Some though are well over a hundred.  Some were bought at a shop somewhere, one special one was built by a couple of friends and two were built by me…with a little help from my friends.

In today’s world, so many clocks are engineering marvels and keep time very accurately.  But some of the older ones tend to be a little less accurate.  So that is where our song comes in.  You see most rooms in my house have a clock or two or three and often they are the older mechanical types.  So, you go into the room and look over there and there is a clock.  It says it is, oh, let’s say 2:13 pm.  Then you look over there and there is another clock, and it says it is 2:20 pm. Then on the wall going up the stairs is another clock that declares it is 2:05 pm.  What?

Well, all of that is not a problem until you are about to leave, and you need to know if you are on time or late.  And trust me, more than once, Judy has said, “So what time is it, anyway?”  Well, I know my clocks pretty well and I know their habits as well.  I pretty much know who runs slow and who runs fast and who doesn’t run at all.  So I can usually tell her just about what time it really is.  It can be a bit confusing…but in a pretty good if not quirky way.

The bottom line is if I really need to know the time, I have three good choices.  First, my trusty Apple Watch.  It is very accurate and if it is strapped to my wrist…it is an obvious first choice. The second choice is my phone which is married to my Apple Watch.  The only problem is I’m not married to my phone which means it may or may not be close by.  The third choice is the kitchen stove.  It always tells the truth…but it still depends on me setting it correctly. And if the power goes off, well, you get the flashy thing until I get around to setting it.

I was thinking, which is always a dangerous thing, that where we go for truth is a lot like trying to find the correct time.  Similar to the question in the song you might ask, “Does anyone really know what truth is and what it is not?”  Well, the answer is…wait for it…the Bible.  For millennia this most ancient of sacred writings has stood the test of time.  It has made the best seller list forever and while there are many different translations and reading styles…there never has been a version 2.1.  Do you know why?  It is timeless, changeless and without error.  I know, I know you might think differently or maybe heard differently but let me encourage to check it out for yourself.  Do some honest research and you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did—it can be trusted because it is the real deal.  And trust me…these days we need the real deal.

When you find yourself running around and asking everyone you meet, “Hey, does anyone really know what’s true and what’s not?” I hope you will turn to the one source that is spot on, right on and always on target. Jesus said it best when He said, “Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” I like that…plain, simple truth. And, when you have a question, when you are stumped, just ask the One who knows and always speaks the truth—God.  Oh, and don’t worry, He always has the answer because He is the answer.  In other words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Buyer’s Remorse

From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” John 1:16

I wish I hadn’t—but I did.  Buyer’s remorse.  The official definition is, “a feeling of regret experienced after making a purchase, typically one regarded as unnecessary or extravagant.” I guess most of us have experienced it at one time or another.  Sometimes it is a minor deal.  You buy something from Walmart, get home, think about it and decide you really didn’t need it.  So, thanks to Walmart’s generous return policy, you lay it aside and the next time you are at the store, you simply return it.  No harm, no foul.

Then sometimes it isn’t quite the easy.  You are at the grocery store and your “you need to watch your diet” wife is out of town. Smile.  So, as you wind your way through the various aisles of calorie rich delights, you find yourself on the cookie aisle. The packages are calling your name and you say, “Why not?” Because you can’t decide, you buy two and since your “you need to watch your diet” wife is not around, you eat both. As the last cookie of package number two slips past your lips, you realize you probably shouldn’t have bought two, or maybe even one, and you have a sense of remorse…diet remorse and buyer’s remorse.  Still, no big deal.  You wait 24 hours and don’t have a heart attack and hide the packages deep in the trash. No harm, no foul.

There are times when the fix is reclusive, and the consequences are bigger than an expanded waistline.  Twice, not once, I have bought new cars that I later regretted.  You know, you visit the lot, you see the car, you smell the car, you buy the car.  You feel important driving it and watch as people watch you driving it.  And then it happens.  A couple of payments down the road of too much debt and not enough payday, you get it.  Major, big time buyer’s remorse.  And this time, there is not a Walmart return policy, and the ouch is bigger than you ever imagined.  This time…well, it is certainly not “no harm, no foul.”

Yup, most of us have slipped on that banana peel.  The important thing is to learn.  Now, I have learned about the car thing…at least I think I have but the cookie thing…well, that is still a work in progress. Smile. And judging from the past, it might be a long, long road. You might be wondering, “Is there anyone who hasn’t experienced buyer’s remorse?”  The answer is yes and the who might surprise you.  That Who is God.

I’ve always been amazed with God.  He is so generous, so loving, and so kind.  He always goes the extra mile to show me that He is for me and not against me.  His patience with this slower learner causes me to wonder how He could not regret loving me.  But here is the deal…and don’t miss this.  God loved me enough to send His Son to a rugged, cruel cross to pay the payment for my sin. I didn’t deserve it and honestly no one does.  But it gets better.  He did that knowing that I wouldn’t always get it right. He did it knowing I would often get it wrong. But it gets better.

Here it is.  Not once in the past, no once today, not once tomorrow, not once for the zillion years of eternity yet to come will He ever have buyer’s remorse.  He made the deal and not once regretted making it. How is that even possible? How is that even conceivable?  Well, the answer is that God not only loves me, He also loves us. Perfectly. In other words, He loves us looking through the lens of His perfect Son.  Instead of seeing warts, He sees us whole and perfect.  Oh, not that we are, not that we ever will be…at least here.  No, it’s all because of His grace and His Son and His sacrifice for us.

So, today, be careful as you cruise the aisles of Walmart…and life.  You might want to avoid the cookie aisle and ice cream freezers of life…things that tend to lead to regret and consequences.  But by all means, be sure and linger in the grace aisle and take in the wonder of it all. As you look at all the packages of love and love notes from the One who loves you most, remember what John wrote, “From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” And if you do happen to slip up, don’t worry.  He won’t change His mind about you.  After all, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  Number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in the small town of Harrisburg, Illinois—we have had to check every once in a while, to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Last summer Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide, but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home, and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So, I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first, I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So, in my best interest, we departed company and I made sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just “you’re out of here.”

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” tick that gives you weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It’s hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worst part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there must be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is true in avoiding ticks and it is also true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we need to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

A Bad Idea–But God

I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25

It seemed like a really, bad idea.  Right after high school graduation I jumped into the Air Force, and it turned out to be a really good idea.  Back in those days, or so it seemed, college wasn’t pushed for everyone, and I was pretty uncertain about what I wanted to do.  So, through a strange set of circumstances, I found myself in the military.  I loved it.  Raised as a good southern boy, the discipline required for a life in the service came naturally.  I was taught to respect others and especially those appointed over me.  “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am” were part of my vocabulary long before the Air Force taught me to say it.

By 1980, I had been stationed in Minot, North Dakota, Valdosta, Georgia (where I met and married the best wife a guy could ask for), spent three years in Germany and finally landed in Knob Noster, Missouri.  Like I said, I liked the Air Force, and it seemed the Air Force liked me.  I was picked for several key assignments and was on track promotion wise.  With a young family, the security the Air Force provided was an added benefit and while I wasn’t going to get rich in the Air Force, the pay provided a good life.  Yup…life was good.

Then God spoke.  No, it wasn’t an audible voice, but it was one clear enough that I knew He had a change of plans in mind.  I felt, I knew that He was calling me to become a pastor but that wasn’t all.  I also knew for me that meant leaving the Air Force.  I think that was probably for a couple of reasons.  First, I knew that as long as I was in the Air Force, I would be tempted to lean on that for security and not God.  Second, I also knew that the Air Force would be calling the shots about my future.  Well, that led up to me making one of the biggest changes in my life…after 12 years…leaving the lifestyle and security of the Air Force and jumping into the secure arms of faith and the life of a pastor.

When I went public with this it seemed that everyone had an opinion and a lot of those opinions followed one school thought—you are nuts.  Certainly, the military thought it was a bad idea. After all, they liked me, and I liked them.  I was on track for a good career and great retirement.  You see, with the military, you can retire with 20 years and draw a pension equal to half of your base pay.  You also get other benefits for the rest of your life.  All that led to the “you are nuts” thing and this is really not good idea. But then…there was God.

You see, I was, oh, somewhere beyond probably and just shy of absolutely certain that God was asking me, telling me to do this.  And somehow, some way, Judy and I with two toddlers under three were able to believe and jump.  And now, forty years later, I am able to say that God took that “really not a good idea” and turned it into a really good idea.  He has faithfully and completely cared for us over these four decades. I’m sure if I had stayed in the Air Force, I would have had a nice, secure life. I’m sure things would have turned out just fine.  But God’s idea went somewhere beyond nice and secure and somewhere beyond just fine.

If I’ve learned anything from all of this, it is that God’s ideas are always, and I do mean always, better than mine.  I have learned and I am learning that faith beats fine every time.  The adventure, the challenges, the “mysterious ways of God” that we have experienced together trumps a nice retirement and manmade security.  There’s a verse, and I’m really not sure all that it means, but it sure seems to ring true with me.  The author says that he had never seen the righteous forsaken or his family begging for bread.  Like I said, I’m not sure what that means entirely but looking back from where I sit, it says, “God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.”

God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Period.  Your story is probably a lot different than mine but if you are a God follower let’s all agree on that part.  He really is good, He really is faithful, and yes, He can be trusted.  So, in these days of uncertainty and in these days when up is down and down is up—listen carefully for the still small voice of your Dearest Daddy.  Let Him whisper His better idea…and then trust. Don’t worry, you are not nuts—you’re a man, a woman and child of faith.  And that is always best because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, Southern born

Looking Forward

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

There’s a reason it is smaller.  I like cars.  I love cars. From my first car, a worn out, rusted out, 1962 Rambler, to what I drive today…cars have held a special place in my life.  That old Rambler may have been akin to the “Ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech” but it was mine…a gift from my oldest sister and her husband. I was 16 or 17 and I thought I was on top of the world.  Through the years I have had many different cars.  Some were new (oh, how I love that smell) and more were used, but each one was my baby.  I try and take care of both of our family vehicles, but mine always gets the best care. Don’t even think about eating in it. Grandkids are required to take a bath before getting in it.  Even Judy requires a permission slip to drive it.

As different as these cars have been, there are a few things that they have in common.  They all had an engine.  The Rambler had a straight line six with a rod knocking but hey, it ran…for a while.  My first new car was a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.  It had an engine too…but in the back.  Trust me that was revolutionary in those days.  Then there was the 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser.  It had an engine—a diesel.  I didn’t know a thing about diesels.  Imagine my surprise when I looked for the spark plugs and found out it didn’t have any! Speaking of diesels, Judy and I both drive Volkswagens these days, both diesels and both get about 42 miles per gallon.  You might say I’m returning to my roots.

Oh, and all those cars had tires, four of them.  They had seats—most had seating for five, but some had more.  Our mini vans could seat seven and that Cutlass Cruiser could seat eight. All had heating and most had air conditioning. Like I said, they had a lot of things in common.  And they all had a mirror.  They had one or two sideview mirrors and then there was one that hung in the middle of the windshield.  It allowed me to see what was behind, and as you know that is important. But there is one more thing that they had in common. They all had a windshield.

In the real old days, cars didn’t have windshields.  You wore goggles and just picked the bugs out of your teeth.  But somewhere along the way someone figured out that there had to be a better way and the windshield was born.  The windshield allows you to see where you are going and what is coming at you.  It is big because it is important.  Have you ever thought about this—the thing that allows you to see the future is a whole lot bigger than the thing that allows you to see the past?  Hmmm. I bet that is no accident. No one can deny the fact that we need to look behind, it’s just that looking forward is more important and that is why it is so big.

So, here’s the question.  As you are “driving” along life’s road, which is bigger, your windshield or your rearview mirror?  I know many folks spend more time looking back than looking forward and that can lead to a hair-raising ride.  You see the rearview mirror in your car is not designed to be the primary place you look.  It is designed for an occasional glance.  Well, that is true in life.  The rearview mirror in our life is there, it is designed, to glance back.  We savor the good times and smile as we remember them.  We wince at some of the more unwise decisions but remember the lessons we learned.  Yup…it is profitable until it is all that we look at.

Living with our eyes glued to the rearview mirror of life is a dangerous thing.  If we live staring at all the past good days, we will soon become discontent with the present.  If we live staring at all the past failures and flops, we will soon become discouraged and depressed. It’s just what happens when we stare at the past and ignore the present and future. Paul, in the Bible, gives us some great advice.  He admitted that while he hadn’t figured it all out, he had learned one thing.  He said we should leave the past in the past and reach out for the future. And trust me…that is really, good advice.

A guy named Brian Simmons said, “The time before us is not one of gloom and doom; it will be instead the best and most adventurous time of our lives. The best for God’s people lies not in the past, buried in Scripture somewhere. It’s yet to come. Let’s not allow fear to defeat us.” Right on Brian, right on.  Remember, don’t fear the future just because it is unknown.  You see, there is a God who knows the future and in fact, in a way we can’t understand…He’s already there. So, settle back, rest in Him and enjoy the drive. Go ahead…set the cruise…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Diver “Whatever-it-is-itis”

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Diver what? It was a long time ago but for some reason it is still fresh in my mind.  Journey back with me to 2002…twenty years ago.  One day I started feeling pretty bad. I ended up going to the doctor and first he did the normal doctor stuff and then he began to poke and to prod and that is when the fun began.  He pressed down on my side, and I just about came off the table.

Well, he said, “Preacher, I think you have diverticulitis.” I didn’t have a clue what diver ”whatever-it-is-itis” was but I knew I didn’t feel good. It turns out that diverticulitis is an infection of the colon, and it can be potentially dangerous. Anyway, he sent me over to the hospital for some more tests, some pain meds and a really strong dose of antibiotics.

For the first few days I was pretty out of it but finally I turned a corner and began to feel a little better. Because of how diverticulitis works, I couldn’t have anything to eat—and very little to drink–for several days.  Now those of you who regularly read Grits know that food and I are best friends so for me to go several hours…much less days…without eating is something strange indeed.  Finally, one morning, the nurse came in and asked if I would like some WATER.  Oh, was I grateful.  “Yes, yes,” said the thirsty preacher.

At lunch they brought me a Popsicle and some chicken broth. Oh, was I grateful.  “Thank you so very much,” said the hungry preacher.  At supper they brought me some more chicken broth and another Popsicle.  “Thanks,” said the now feeling better and still hungry preacher.  At breakfast they brought me more broth and another Popsicle.  “Looks just like supper to me,” said the very hungry and less grateful preacher.  Well on and on it went for a few more meal times until finally they brought me REAL FOOD.  Broiled chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans have never tasted so good.

The moral of the story is obvious and simple.  You see, the better I felt and the more I drank the broth and ate the popsicles, the more dissatisfied and ungrateful I became.  It was surprising how quickly I forgot the days when I had nothing.  And that is when I learned an important lesson. You see, when you become dissatisfied with what you’ve got just remember a day when you had less. It’s sure to mash your “I’m grateful” button.

One of things that God is working on in my life is this grateful thing.  It seems He keeps bringing to my attention all that I have that I should be thankful for.  I’m realizing it is a very long list.  Through the years God has sent special blessings and special people to me over and over again.  The special blessings were love notes sent by my Dearest Daddy in heaven.  The special people were encouragers to walk with me along the journey. Together they remind me, they prod me to be thankful.

As you journey, as I journey, and we find ourselves tending to be a little on the ungrateful side…when we are no longer satisfied with chicken broth and Popsicles…maybe we can and should remember when we had less. Paul, who spent more time in jail for doing Jesus stuff than anyone else, wrote, “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He would later write how he learned to be content no matter what and most of that he wrote while sitting in a Roman prison. How about that?

So, let’s be honest.  Chicken broth and Popsicles still don’t make my top five list—or top fifty for that matter.  But I can remember the time when I thought they were better than fried chicken and a banana split.  It is all about perspective.  This being grateful thing is something most of us will wrestle with as long as we are here on this earth.  We probably should just hang a sign out that says, “Construction Zone Ahead.” Just remember, be grateful because something is always better than nothing.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear the Whisperer whispering, “Popsicles anyone?” And he will smile and whisper, don’t worry…“I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Life from the Back Left

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

I guess I got in the wrong line.  I don’t know if there are lines in heaven or not but if there are…I may have missed one or two.  If there is a line for being tall, missed it.  If there is a line for being skinny, missed that one too.  Oh, the line for hair, missed it again. Oh well, I am who I am and probably in a different world I would be alright with at least some of it.  But it seems we live in a world where we are constantly being reminded that we always come up…a little short (pun fully intended).

And speaking of short, the Air Force had this unusual way of reminding you that you weren’t tall.  Now, first, you need to know I really, really enjoyed my time in the Air Force. Once you made it past basic training, in many ways it was like working for any other first-class organization.  Now granted, we were still in the warrior business, but Basic Military Training wasn’t the real Air Force…thankfully.

You see, in Basic, we marched where we went.  I’m sure the Army and Marines do that all the time anyway but once we got out of Basic and tech school, we rediscovered the wonders of buses and cars.  But not so in Basic.  So, it went something like this.  The Drill Sergeant would holler “form up”.  Now we had done this enough that we would get into lines about seven across and seven deep.  The sergeant would then have us do a “right face” and would say, “If you are taller than the man in front of you, tap him on the right shoulder and move up.”  In other words, if you are tall, move up…if you’re short don’t.

Well, I simply waited for the inevitable tap on the right shoulder and sure enough…it came.  Then the sergeant would have us do a “left face” and we would do it all over again. The command came, “If you are taller than the man in front of you, tap him on the right shoulder and move up.” So, the end result was the tallest people were at the right front and the shortest people were in the left back.  Well, it seems I spent a lot of time in the back left.

I’m sure there is a reason for all of this.  It certainly must have looked more uniform, and I guess it probably looked more impressive.  I’m glad we didn’t apply this logic and formula to family photographs.  If we did, some of us would have never been seen.  I always wrestled with things like this because it seemed to make me feel kinda…small.  It sometimes seems that the world places great value on a man’s stature—the taller the better and it is true in so many arenas and places around the world.  But there is one place that it doesn’t matter one bit…and that is the place that matters the most.

You see, when it comes to God, He is not impressed even a little bit with our height, weight, or even how much hair we have.  In fact, He is the one who made us and since He doesn’t make mistakes, well, that means He got it right. When God was choosing the second king of Israel, the search committee naturally assumed the biggest and tallest would be selected.  Well, God said, “Nope.”  It turned out that there was a short, ruddy, teenage shepherd boy that, through God’s prospective, fit the bill perfectly. You see, God looks at the size of the heart and not the height.  He looks on the inside and not the outside.  I like that. A lot.

So, as you journey through life, and you are bugged because it seems you got in the wrong lines in heaven (and just to be clear…there really aren’t any lines) remember that God made you just way He wanted you.  When they were doing the selection process for that king, God said, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  Well, there you go. You won’t find any of that, “tapping the shoulder thing and moving up” in God’s family. We made us equal and loves us equally.  And if anyone tries to tell you differently, just remind them who’s calling the shots and remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Special on Donuts

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The sign said it all. “Day old donuts…half price.”  In those five words there are two things I really like.  First, donuts.  Donuts and I go way back.  In fact, food and I go way back.  I’m a southern boy and there’s just something about food that puts a smile on my face.  Donuts, well, they make me smile big. The other thing that I really like is “half price.”  I love a good deal.  I remember one time I was at a store, and it was after Christmas.  They had a gift set that had a razor, some shaving cream, and a few extra blades.  They were marked down from $6.99 to .79 cents. I bought all they had—about twenty of them.  Too bad I use an electric razor.  But it was such a good deal.

So, we have half-price donuts…but there is a problem. “Day old.”  Because donuts don’t have preservatives, they go stale real quickly.  By the afternoon of day one a donut becomes not as fluffy—a little chewy.  By day two it becomes like a dried-out kitchen sponge.  By day three you have yourself an oversized hockey puck.  What is a donut lover who loves good deals to do?  One word.  Microwave.

The microwave is an amazing invention…especially when it comes to donuts.  You see the microwave cooks from the inside out.  When you put a day old donut in there it begins warming from the inside and any moisture turns to steam and the steam moisturizes the bread. Let me tell you that dude will fluff right up.

I mean this is amazing.  You can even throw a three-day old donut in there and depending how hungry you are, pretty much make it edible.  I know because sometimes I wander through the church on Thursday and discover some leftovers from Sunday.  Yup.  Just chuck those things in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a semi-fresh donut. By the way, do not tell my wife Judy I’ve done this.

I wonder if David the shepherd had day old donuts and microwaves in mind when he wrote Psalm 23:3. There we find, “He restores my soul.”  That’s just what the microwave does for the donut.  It warms it from the inside, moistening the dry, stale, bread making it soft and pliable again. In David’s way of thinking it wasn’t a microwave, it was green pastures and still waters.  If you could see it from a sheep’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.

Imagine a sheep, hot, tired, and hungry and the shepherd brings them to a lush green pasture, and he eats his fill.  Then he waddles over to a crystal-clear brook, barely moving, and drinks till he can’t hold anymore.  That’s what David meant when he said God restored his soul.  A lot of folks wouldn’t take a chance on a day-old donut.  A lot of folks would count it only worth giving to the dog or tossing in the trash.  They don’t understand the wonder of the microwave.  Do you know what? Sadly, people do people that way too.

Someone gets beat up by the world, worked over by doubt, fear and frustration and they get a little stale.  Some folks wouldn’t bother with them.  Some folks would avoid them.  But not God. He sees the broken, weary people around us and the garbage can is the farthest thing from His mind.  Just like the microwave can work magic on a donut so God can work miracles in the lives of the most broken of people. And like the microwave—He does it from the inside out. It was Jesus who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus does what nothing else, no one else, can do.  He can rescue, redeem, and make the broken whole and life fresh again.

So, let me suggest before you walk by the day-old donuts at the market give them a try.  You might discover a tasty treat and a good deal.  And, before you walk by your neighbor or a stranger and you can tell they’ve been worked over by the world and circumstances, just remember what Jesus did for you.  Remember how He didn’t just see you how you were, He saw how you could be. Just a moment in time and He plumped you up with His amazing grace and kindness.

Maybe you are the one who feels stale about now. Maybe your heart is as hard as a week-old donut.  Well, don’t crawl in a microwave but do crawl up in the lap of Jesus.  Let Him restore your soul.  Stay awhile.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Chief Wounded Cheek

For all have sinned.” Romans 3:23a

Turns out this falling thing isn’t new.  If you are a regular reader of Grits, you might remember that about once a year I decide to see if my body will bounce.  Last year it was Indian Point Trail.  I tripped over a root and before you could say, “shoot that thang” I was stretched out flat on my face.  It was painful.  Then a little over a month ago I hung my toe on the edge of my patio and did it all over again.  And yes, I fell hard and yes, it hurt.  In fact, my hand is still healing from that one.

So, the other day, I was thinking (I sometimes do that) and remembered another time and another fall and this one garnered me a new name.  When I pastored another church in another town, we had a great guy named Bob who would take a bunch of us to the Smoky Mountains and hike to the top of Mount Le Conte. We did this for several years and I am pretty sure I made the trip each time.  We would leave early and get to the mountains around mid-afternoon.

Bob was a pro at this hiking stuff, and he knew the importance of warming up.  So that afternoon, the day before the big hike, we would take a warmup hike.  I remember one time the warmup hike was the Chimneys and if you have ever done that one you know it isn’t that long but it is a killer.  As I remember, the warmups made the real deal almost anti-climactic.  And then, there was another time that I remember…well.

So, we got to the mountains and prepared for the warmup.  This one, as I remember, wasn’t straight up…in fact it was kinda level but it did involve crossing a couple of boulder strewn creeks.  And crossing one of those creeks gave me a new name.  As we crossed, we carefully picked our way over and around the rocks…leaning on our hiking sticks and trying to stay dry.  We did pretty good…I did pretty good…until I didn’t. Yup…you guessed it…down I went.

Gratefully, back then I bounced even better than I do now.  That time I didn’t fall flat on my face, I didn’t fall on my side, I fell on my, uh, well, my bottom.  It all happened in a split second, and I am sure if my pants hadn’t been double stitched, I would have split something else.  Well, once everyone determined that I wasn’t mortally wounded, the laughter started.  The sight of their fearless pastor laying, sitting catawampus—half in and half out the water—was too much to contain.

And then someone, who knows who, said it.  “It” was my new name.  They said, “Look there is “Chief Wounded Cheek.”  Well, then everyone, and I mean everyone, started laughing again.  Well, they helped me out and up and we continued our warmup hike but for the rest of the trip and several months later, I was “Chief Wounded Cheek.” Even to this day the memories make me smile because we had shared life together and laughed together.

There is one more thing that I so appreciated about that special group of friends, and friends like them through the years—they allowed me to be human.  You see sometimes people like to put leaders on some sort of pedestal.  The problem is that is a place they should never be because if and when they fall, well, sometimes it is unrecoverable. One of the best things you can do for a leader is love them, respect them, but allow them to be human.  And what is true of leaders and pastors is true of husbands, wives, and yes, parents. Remember, we all walk on clay feet.

Well, I’m glad to report that Chief Wounded Cheek is still bouncing along and gratefully most of the time, most of the people allow me to be human. Paul, the guy who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, reminded us that everyone of us are sinners—you know, broken people.  At one time or another, we have all messed up. The good news is that failure doesn’t have to be final.  The other good news is if we are wise, we will learn when we fail.  Someone said, “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t learning.” I like that. Oh, and the final good news is that when we fail, there is Someone standing by who says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne